All photos in this article were taken by Dan Barker during a public
tour of the Colorado Railcar plant in Feb., 2003.
a common misconception that most ultradomes are built out of former
SP and CNW bilevel commuter cars. While this was true of the first four
cars, and partially true of the next two, all
of the cars built since that time have been built from scratch.
to Tom Janaky, VP of Marketing and Sales for Colorado Railcar, the progression
went something like this: the first four cars were built by literally
taking the tops off of four ex-SP Pullman bilevel cars, raising the
floor and putting new tops on with the dome glass frames. While this
method was a great way of proving the concept, it was quite time intensive,
and the doors in the middle were a bit limiting to the versatility of
the floor plan.
the next two cars ordered, the host cars were stripped all the way down
to the center sills and rebuilt with fabricated sides and ends. While
this saved a bit on the labor costs, it was only a natural progression
to completely fabricate the car from scratch.
ultradomes are built using a set of custom jigs in order to speed the
process. First, a center sill is layed up, followed by the sides, which
are layed up on two more jigs positioned on either side of the center
sill. When completed, the sides are lifted into position and joined
to the center sill, and a fabricated dome frame is placed on the top.
The center sill jig is shown in the above photo with the frame of what
is probably to become Rocky Mountianeer 9521, taken during a public
open house in Feb., 2003.
in all, metal work on the cars is said to take about two weeks, meaning
that the next eight and a half months is spent entirely on finish work.
Trucks are rebuilt, miles of electrical cable and conduit are strung,
and the actual structure of the car is fleshed out and put together.
the process, the car is painted in a modern paint booth located just
outside the main shop area. After being painted, and having the interior
completed and decorated, the car is completely cleaned and prepared
ultradome design is unique in that most all of the heavy components
of the car are slung underneath the center sill, leaving the bottom
floor completely open for revenue use. Generator, air conditioner condensers,
water and fuel storage are all located under the car. Besides the space
savings, this has the obvious advantage of placing all the weight lower,
making the car ride better and more stable.
addition to the patents on overall design, Colorado Railcar also builds
in several more subtle features. One of the most innovative is the ducted
air conditioning system, which is designed to help adequately circulate
the air around the upper level to help prevent the window fogging that
is common on full dome cars.